A sebago anniversary
We’ve been talking about new farmers a lot lately but this week I want celebrate one of the old guard, Joe Sgro from Foothill Organics in Colac. This year it’s 15 years since we started buying produce off Joe for CERES Market. That’s Joe on the right at his farm stand at the old Footscray wholesale market back in 2004. Joe’s greyer these days and he’s had a pretty tough year with a hip operation and the sad loss one of his longest serving employees.
But despite a sore body and a heavy heart Joe hasn’t slowed down. He could easily stay on the farm and freight his produce to the wholesale agents but that’s not Joe, that’s the opposite of Joe. Joe’s so fiercely independent and loyal to his customers it’s impossible to imagine him not driving his semi truck two hours from Colac to the new Epping market every Monday and Thursday. Impossible to imagine him not sitting on a veggie bin having a yak with one of his regulars – something he’s as proficient at as growing sebago spuds.
When I first visited Joe’s place many years ago I remember thinking that his 10 acres of organics was a huge operation. These days he cultivates 30 to 40 acres to keep up with the growing demand for organics. Joe’s a no-nonsense sort of guy and that’s the type of produce he grows. Over the next few weeks, once he can get a tractor into the wet rows, he’ll begin regular plantings of leeks, his five varieties of spuds, his radish, turnips, swedes, bok choi, silverbeet, rainbow chard, and tomatoes. All the usual lines that will keep him coming to his market stand twice a week to sell and have a yak for another year to come. Happy anniversary Joe.
The onion situation
Organic onions will be in short supply. Recently four organic onion growers have either retired, sold-up or just stopped growing onions. This has had a major effect on the market and in the immediate future onions are going to be very hard to find and equally pricey.
It underlines the precarious nature of the organic industry. Long standing organic properties are ceasing production because retiring farmers have no-one to pass the farm onto or are forced to sell onto the conventional market because no potential organic farmers can afford the debt required to buy these established farms.
The onion situation is timely as it coincides with the emergence of the Organic and Regenerative Investment Co-op, a group proposing to bring investors together to secure organic properties in perpetuity. ORI Co-op are having an information night about the purchase of their first property this Wed 20th, 6-8pm at the Calvin Club in Melbourne.
Have a great week